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2010/01/12 09:43 KST
S. Korean icebreaker begins first Antarctic voyage

  
SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- The first South Korean dedicated icebreaker vessel set out Tuesday to explore waters off Antarctica and examine candidate sites for a second Korean research station on the frozen continent, the government said.

   The Araon, a 7,487-ton icebreaker and research ship, left Christchurch, New Zealand, for a month-long journey that will allow it to test its ability to cut through ice up to 1 meter thick, said the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs.

Christened last year and equipped with various oceanographic, geophysical and arctic environment laboratories, the ship can carry around 80 people and has an endurance of 37,000 kilometers, or about 70 days. It is also designed to provide logistical support to South Korea's King Sejong Station located on Antarctica's Barton Peninsula.

   The ministry said the Araon will also visit Cape Burks and Terra Nova Bay, which have been designated as candidate sites for the country's second research base.

   "Based on the survey conducted by the scientists on board, the government will make its decision on the location of the second research base in the first half of this year," an official said.

   In 2008, South Korea announced plans to open another base in Antarctica sometime after 2011 to expand its research capabilities on the southernmost continent.

   Once its mission is completed, the Araon is expected to return to Christchurch on Feb. 18 and return to the South Korean port of Incheon by mid- March.

   yonngong@yna.co.kr
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